‘The Walking Dead’: Who Dies in the Mid-Season 9 Premiere?

The Walking Dead on Sunday returned with its Season Nine mid-season premiere, continuing on from where its winter finale left off: with the surprise death of Jesus (Tom Payne), who was cut down by a Whisperers’ blade.

Territorial and animalistic, the Whisperers believe in a terrifying philosophy that sees them embrace the dead under leader Alpha (Samantha Morton). Using the skinned flesh of walkers as camouflage, the Whisperers hide in plain sight — posing the greatest threat yet to survivors Daryl (Norman Reedus), Michonne (Danai Gurira), Carol (Melissa McBride) and their splintered allies.

Jesus is the lone casualty as the back half of Season Nine gets underway, but the Whisperers’ arrival signals a casualty count that is soon to grow as the survivors come to confront an enemy group they’re not yet prepared to face.

“We knew that there needed to be something momentous to happen to kind of kick off this season Whisperer storyline,” showrunner Angela Kang told ComicBook.com of the decision to have Jesus’ death serve as the introduction of the Whisperers.

“And in the show we often diverge from the paths from the comic book, because it’s just our array of characters is so different. But it had to be something that really would affect the story at Hilltop, and a character whose life really mattered, and what they stood for matters to our characters.”

The fallout from the casualty, Kang added, ripples throughout the rest of the season. “I think it’s had a powerful impact on the story,” she said.

Hilltop is now down two leaders, following the early season exit of Maggie (Lauren Cohan), who has temporarily set off with Georgie (Jayne Atkinson) to assist with a new community.

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“That is part of the story at Hilltop, is they’re dealing with some crisis in leadership but also it gives some other people a chance to step up as well, and it’s part of the array of what’s happening at these different communities,” Kang told us.

“Each community is dealing with their own challenges. Alexandria has sort of closed itself off, Kingdom and having problems keeping together. And so, they need help from the others. Hilltop is kind of in a crisis of having some instability in what’s happening there. Each one of these communities is really trying to deal with these leadership challenges that they really haven’t faced before onscreen, so that’s just part of the story going forward.”